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CHAPTER XXVIII. - Gouverneur Morris, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2 
The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, Minister of the United States to France; Member of the Constitutional Convention, ed. Anne Cary Morris (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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Letter to Washington concerning M. Genet. Morris questions his ability. Clew to some mysteries of the Revolution. Morris urged to leave Paris. Paris a dangerous residence. He determines to stay. Letter in verse to Lady Sutherland. Trial of Louis Sixteenth. Letter to Jefferson. The king’s execution. His dignified manner. War with England inevitable. Letter to Washington. French prospects dreadful. Parties pass away like shadows. Morris reported a victim of the guillotine. Letter to Robert Morris. Letter to Jefferson. Scarcity of men in France. The Revolutionary Tribunal organized. Morris arrested in the street. Letter to Jefferson. Growing treachery to the government. A majority in the Convention in favor of royalty. Morris buys a country place. Leaves Paris. Spends the summer at Sainport.
On the 6th of January, 1793, Morris wrote to Washington concerning M. Genet, the new Minister from France to the United States. Morris says:
“I have seen M. Genet, and he has dined with me since I had the pleasure of writing to you on the 28th of last month. He has, I think, more of genius than ability, and you will see in him at first blush the manner and look of an upstart. My friend, the Maréchal de Ségur, had told me that M. Genet was a clerk at £50 per annum in his office while Secretary of War. I turned the conversation, therefore, on the maréchal, and M. Genet told me that he knew him very well, having been in the ministry with him. After dinner he entered into dispute with a merchant who came in, and, as the question turned chiefly on facts, the merchant was rather an overmatch for the minister. I think that in the business he is charged with he will talk so much as to furnish sufficient matter for putting him on one side of his object, should that be convenient.
“I have endeavored to show him that this is the worst possible season to put to sea for America. If he delays, there is some room to suppose that events may happen to prevent the mission; perhaps a British ship may intercept that which takes him out, and I incline to think that until matters are more steady here you would be as well content with some delay as with remarkable despatch. . . . As I have good reason to believe that this letter will go safely, I shall mention some things which may serve as a clew to lead through mysteries. Those who planned the revolution which took place on the 10th of August sought a person to head the attack, and found a M. Westermann,∗ whose morals were far from exemplary. He has no pretensions to science or to depth of thought, but he is fertile in resources and imbued with the most daring intrepidity. Like Cæsar, he believes in his fortune. When the business drew towards a point the conspirators trembled, but Westermann declared they should go on. They obeyed, because they had trusted him too far. On that important day his personal conduct decided, in a great measure, his success. Rewards were due, and military rank, with opportunities to enrich himself, granted. You know something of Dumouriez. The Council distrusted him. Westermann was commissioned to destroy him should he falter. This commission was shown to the general. It became the bond of union between him and Westermann. Dumouriez opened treaty with the King of Prussia. The principal emigrants, confident of force and breathing vengeance, shut the royal ear. Thionville was defended, because a member of the Constituent Assembly saw in Lafayette’s fate his own. Metz was not delivered up, because nobody asked for the keys, and because the same apprehensions were felt which influenced in Thionville. The King of Prussia waited for these evidences of loyalty until his provisions were consumed. He then found it necessary to bargain for a retreat. It was worth to Westermann about ten thousand pounds. The Council, being convinced that he had betrayed their bloody secret, have excited a bloody prosecution against him for old affairs of no higher rank than petit larceny. He has desired a trial by court-martial. You will judge whether cordial union can subsist between the Council and their generals. Vergniaud,∗ Guadet, etc., are now, I am told, the intimates of Dumouriez, and that the present administration is to be overturned, beginning with Pache, the Minister of War. You will have seen a denunciation against these members of Assembly for a letter they wrote to Thierry, the King’s valet de chambre. This affair needs explanation, but it can be of no present use. The King’s fate is to be decided next Monday, the 14th. That unhappy man, conversing with one of his council on his own fate, calmly summed up the motives of every kind, and concluded that a majority of the Council would vote for referring his case to the people, and that in consequence he should be massacred. I think he must die or reign.”
Mr. Morris’s friends, as well as members of his family, had by this time become apprehensive for his life, and earnestly urged him to abandon Paris and seek some less perilous place. In reply to this wish he wrote, January 14th, to his brother, General Morris, then at London, as follows:
“The date of this letter will show you that I did not, as you hoped, abandon my post, which is not always a very proper conduct. It is true that continuing here was, on many accounts, unpleasant, but we must take the world as it goes. You are right in the idea that Paris is a dangerous residence. But it is better that my friends should wonder why I stay than my enemies inquire why I went away. I will do what is right, to the best of my judgment. I perfectly agree with you that a small sum on my farm, with contentment, is better than anything in a situation like that in which I am now placed; but the first of all enjoyments is that which results from doing our duty. An opportunity presents itself which enables me to give you the desired certificate that as yet I exist. Such an existence, however, is very far from pleasant, so I should be very glad to pass the coming summer at Morrisania, for, if it be possible to judge of the future by the past, it will exhibit new scenes of horror.”
The many “scenes of horror” through which he had passed had not destroyed his spirit or rendered his pen less facile, as the following rhyming letter to Lady Sutherland testifies:
“Here you reply:
“Now ‘tis my turn:
“You come in here pat:
“To this I answer:
“And hereon, charming lady, I greet you; and I would have you to consider that all this rhyme is not without some reason. So pray ask your lord to give the gentleman who bears this letter an interview, and sometimes, when you have nothing else to do, think of a lone man who thinks very often of you, and never without wishing you were again established in Paris. Adieu, yours.”
From the 14th till the 20th of January Louis Sixteenth stood his trial, and awaited calmly, it would seem, the sentence, not doubting what it would be. “Louis Capet est coupable de conspiration contre la liberté de la nation et attentat de la sῦreté générale;” so the Convention at last decided, and for seventy-two hours were in séance to vote for his life or death.
“The 21st of January, at ten o’clock in the morning, Louis de Bourbon, XVI. of the name, born at Versailles the 23d August, 1754, named Dauphin the 20th December, 1765, King of France and of Navarre, 10th of June, 1774, consecrated and crowned at Rheims, 11th June, 1776, was guillotined in the Place de la Révolution.” On the 25th of January Morris wrote of the event to Mr. Jefferson. “The late King of this country has been publicly executed. He died in a manner becoming his dignity. Mounting the scaffold, he expressed anew his forgiveness of those who persecuted him, and a prayer that his deluded people might be benefited by his death. On the scaffold he attempted to speak, but the commanding officer, Santerre, ordered the drums to beat. The King made two unavailing efforts, but with the same bad success. The executioners threw him down, and were in such haste as to let fall the axe before his neck was properly placed, so that he was mangled. It would be needless to give you an affecting narrative of particulars. I proceed to what is more important, having but a few minutes to write in by the present good opportunity. The greatest care was taken to prevent a concourse of people. This proves a conviction that the majority was not favorable to that severe measure. In fact, the great mass of the people mourned the fate of their unhappy prince. I have seen grief, such as for the untimely death of a beloved parent. Everything wears an appearance of solemnity which is awfully distressing. I have been told by a gentleman from the spot that putting the King to death would be a signal for disbanding the army in Flanders. I do not believe this, but incline to think it will have some effect on that army, already perishing by want and mouldering fast away. The people of that country, if the French army retreats, will, I am persuaded, take a severe vengeance for the injuries they have felt and the insults they have been exposed to. Both are great. The war against France is become popular in Austria, and is becoming so in Germany. If my judgment be good, the testament of Louis the Sixteenth will be more powerful against the present rulers of this country than an army of an hundred thousand men. You will learn the effect it has in England. I believe that the English will be wound up to a pitch of enthusiastic horror against France, which their cool and steady temper seems to be scarcely susceptible of. I enclose you a translation of a letter from Sweden, which I have received from Denmark. You will see thereby that the Jacobin principles are propagated with zeal in every quarter. Whether the Regent of Sweden, intends to make himself king is a moot point. All the world knows that the young prince is not legitimate, although born under circumstances which render it, legally speaking, impossible to question his legitimacy. I consider a war between Britain and France as inevitable. I have not proof, but some very leading circumstances. Britain will, I think, suspend her blow until she can strike very hard, unless, indeed, they should think it advisable to seize the moment of indignation against late events for a declaration of war. This is not improbable, because it may be coupled with those general declarations against all kings, under the name of tyrants, which contain a determination to destroy them, and the threat that if the ministers of England presume to declare war, an appeal shall be made to the people at the head of an invading army. Of course, a design may be exhibited of entering into the heart of Great Britain, to overturn the Constitution, destroy the rights of property, and finally to dethrone and murder the King—all which are things the English will neither approve of nor submit to.”
Again, in a letter to Mr. Jefferson on the 13th of February, Morris says: “Since my last, I have had every reason to believe that the execution of the King has produced on foreign nations the effect which I had imagined. The war with England exists, and it is now proper, perhaps, to consider its consequences; to which effect we must examine the objects likely to be pursued by England, for in this country, notwithstanding the gasconades, a defensive war is prescribed by necessity. Many suppose that the French colonies will be attacked, but this I do not believe. There are higher considerations to be attended to. In one shape or another this nation will make a bankruptcy. Strange as it may seem, the present war is, on the part of France, a war of empire, and if she defends herself she commands the world. I am persuaded that her enemies consider this as the real state of things, and will therefore bend their efforts towards a reduction of her power: and this may be compassed in two ways—either by obliging her to assume a new burden of debt to defray the expense they are at on her account, or else a dismemberment. The latter appears the more certain mode. As to the conduct of the war, I believe it to be on the part of the enemy as follows: First, the maritime powers will try to cut off all supplies of provisions and take France by famine; that is to say, excite revolt among the people by that strong lever. I think I can perceive some seeds already sown to produce that fruit. As to the colonies, I believe that France will not attempt to defend them, and their whole commerce falls naturally into the lap of America, unless the British prevent it, and I think they will find it more convenient to neglect that small object to pursue the great ones which open themselves to view in this quarter.
“You had instructed me to endeavor to transfer the negotiation for a new treaty to America, and if the revolution of the 10th of August had not taken place, but instead thereof the needful power and confidence had been restored to the Crown, I should perhaps have obtained what you wished as a mark of favor and confidence. A change of circumstances rendered it necessary to change entirely my conduct, so as to produce in one way what was impracticable in another. As I saw clearly, or at least I thought I saw, that France and England would at length get by the ears, it seemed best to let them alone until they should be nearly pitted. When I found this to be the case, I asked an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and mentioned to him my wish that an exception should be made in the decree against emigrants in favor of those who were in the United States. I told him, truly, that I wished the alliance between the two nations to be strictly preserved; I told him with great frankness that, notwithstanding appearances and the flattering accounts transmitted by some of his agents, Britain was, in my opinion, hostile, and an attempt at an alliance with her idle. He assured me he was of the same opinion. I then observed to him that, in such case, there would be no doubt but Mr. Hammond would exert himself to inculcate the opinion that our treaty, having been made with the King, was void by the Revolution. He said that such an opinion was absurd. I told him that my private sentiments were similar to his, but I thought it would be well to evince a degree of good-will to America, and had therefore taken the liberty to suggest the exception in favor of emigrants to America. Now I know well that some of the leaders here who are in the Diplomatic Committee hate me cordially, though it would puzzle them to say why; and I was determined rather to turn that disposition to account than to change it, because I see some advantages to result from it. Thus I contributed indirectly to the slight put on me by sending M. Genet without mentioning to me a syllable either of his mission or his errand, both of which, nevertheless, I was early and sufficiently informed of. The pompousness of this embassy could not but excite the attention of England, and my continuance at Paris, notwithstanding the many reasons which might have induced me to leave it, would also, I thought, excite in some degree their jealousy; and I have good reason to believe that this effect was produced. At any rate, the thing you wished for is done and you can treat in America if you please. Perhaps you will see that all the advantages desired do already exist, that the acts of the Constitutional Assembly have in some measure set us free from our engagements, and that, increasing daily in power, we may make quite as good a bargain some time hence as now.
“It remains to add a few words in reply to what regards me personally in your letter. I am very happy indeed to find that my conduct, as far as it was known, is approved of. This is the summit of my wish, for I candidly acknowledge that the good opinion of the wise and virtuous is what I prize beyond all earthly possessions. I have lately debated much within myself what to do. The path of life in Paris is no longer strewed with roses, as you may well imagine; indeed, it is extremely painful. I have already given my reasons for staying here, but now the scene is changed, and I had thoughts of making a tour to the different consulates. There are, however, some pretty solid objections to that plan for the present. The next thing which suggested itself was to hire a country-house for the summer season in the neighborhood. At length, that my leaving the city might give no offence to anybody, I have bought a country-house in an out of the way place where it is not likely that any armies will pass or repass, even should the enemy penetrate. If I lose the money paid for it I will put up with the loss. The act in itself shows a disposition friendly to France, and as it is between twenty and thirty miles from Paris, I shall be at hand should business require my presence. Mr. Livingston, my secretary, will continue in town unless driven out by war or famine. In this way I hope to avoid those accidents which are almost inseparable from the present state of society and government, and which, should they light on the head of a public Minister, might involve consequences of a disagreeable nature. It is more proper also, I conceive, to make arrangements of this kind in a moment of tranquillity than when confusion is awakened into mischief. In all this my judgment may err, but I can truly say that the interest of the United States is my sole object. Time alone can tell whether the conduct was right, as I know the intention to be.”
To Washington Morris wrote on February 14th as follows:
“I have received yours of the 20th of October, which was very long on its way. You will find that events have blackened more and more in this country. Her present prospects are dreadful. It is not so much, perhaps, the external force, great as that may be, for there are always means of defence in so vast a nation. The exhausted state of resources might also be borne with, if not remedied; but the disorganized state of the government seems irremediable. The venality is such that if there be no traitor, it is because the enemy has not common-sense. Without the aid of venality there are not a few who, from mistaken zeal and from ignorance, contribute to the success of those powers who are leagued against France. Many also, under the garb of patriotism, conceal their attachment to the former government. In short, the fragment of the present system is erected in a quagmire. The new constitution has not yet made its appearance, but it is easy to conjecture what it will not be. In the mean time I learn that the Ministers of War and Marine declare it impossible for them to go on.
“How all this will end God only knows, but I fear it will end badly. I will not speak of my own situation. You will judge that it is far from pleasant. I could be popular, but that would be wrong. The different parties pass away like the shadows of a magic lantern, and to be well with any one of them would, in a short period, become cause of unquenchable hatred with the others. Happy America, governed by reason, by law, by the man she loves, whom she almost adores. It is the pride of my life to consider that man as my friend, and I hope long to be honored with that title. God bless you, my dear sir, and keep and preserve you. Your cool and steady temper is now of infinite consequence to our country. As soon as I can see the way open to anything decisive I shall inform you of it. At present I weary myself with unavailing reflection, meditation, and conjecture. A partition seems the most probable event at present. Adieu.”
A month later, rumor and the gazettes having numbered Morris among the victims of the guillotine, he hastened to inform Robert Morris, and through him his other friends, of his well-being. “I am told,” he wrote, March 15th, “that the London gazetteers have killed me, besides burning my house and other little pleasantries of the same kind. Now, as these accounts may be republished, I apprise you thereof and pray you to vouch that they were not true at the time of publication. You tell me that in my place you would resign and come home, but this is not quite so easily done as said. I must have leave to resign from the President. The very circumstances which you mention are strong reasons for abiding, because it is not permitted to abandon a post in the hour of difficulty. I think the late decrees respecting our commerce will show you that my continuance here has not been without some use to the United States, and as to the rest, we must console ourselves with the reflection that whatever is is.”
It was in March that Morris became assured of the fact that the Executive Council had sent to America with M. Genet blank commissions for privateers. On the 20th he communicated his knowledge to Mr. Pinckney, then United States Minister at London, as a “fact of which I am informed in a way that precludes doubt. The commissions are to be given clandestinely to such persons as he might find in America inclined to take them, to prey on the British commerce. This appears to me, waiving all question of honesty, no very sound measure politically speaking, since they may, as a nation, derive greater advantage from our neutrality than from our alliance. I learn that some seamen have lately been taken by British cruisers who claim to be Americans. I presume that the claim will not be admitted, but if the government should cause them to be executed as pirates, a knowledge thereof would go a great way to prevent our citizens from engaging in a war contrary to the wishes of our Government. I am the more solicitous on this subject in that we may well expect a back game of the same kind by Britain, and in such case it would be impossible for the French to distinguish, among their prisoners, between those who were and those who were not English.”
France began now to feel the effects of war and emigration, not to mention the devastation caused by the work of the guillotine, and in a letter to Mr. Jefferson on March 7th, Morris refers to this state of things as follows:
“It now appears that there is a real scarcity of men, and that the supposition that this country would procure five hundred thousand men required arose from little circumstances of dress and flattery calculated to catch idlers. The losses of the last campaign are sensible in the mass of population, so that, notwithstanding the numbers thrown out of employ by the stagnation of some manufactures and the reduction of private fortunes, the want of common laborers is felt throughout the whole country. Already they talk of drafting for the service, but if delayed it would not, I believe, go down, and at any rate would not produce in season the required force, especially if the enemy should have any considerable force; for you must not imagine that the appearances in this country are all real, and you must take into your estimation that the Convention is falling into contempt because the tribunes govern it imperiously. They try to save appearances, but the people cannot long be dupes. It is the old story of King Log, and how long it may be before Jupiter sends them a crane to destroy the frogs and froglings is a matter of uncertainty. Already they begin to cry for a dictator. An insurrection also is brewing whose object, I am told, is to destroy the faction of the Gironde. I think I mentioned to you that the death of the King would be the forerunner of their destruction. The majority of the Convention is clearly at the disposition of their enemies.
“The consuls will forward to you, and you will see in the gazettes, the decree for opening all the ports of this nation to our vessels on equal terms with their own. You will be so kind as to observe that this was done on a report of the Committee of Safety. Now you must know that the members of this committee, or at least a majority of them, are sworn foes to the members of the Diplomatic Committee. I have received indirectly a kind of assurance from the former (which disposes entirely of the Convention) that they will do anything for the United States which I will point out; but, in fact, I know not anything which we ought to ask. Great exertions are making here to re-enforce Dumouriez, and still greater to bring about a new revolution, whose effect, if successful, would be, I think, the destruction of what is called here the faction of the Gironde, and which calls itself the republican party, qualifying its enemies by the term anarchists. To avoid, if possible, the carnage of the 2d to the 8th of last September, a tribunal called the Revolutionary Tribunal is organized, with very large and wide powers. It is one of those instruments whose operations are incalculable, and on whose direction depends the fate of the country. Opinion seems to set very strongly against the Convention. They are supposed to be incapable of steering the state ship in the present rough weather; but it must blow yet a little harder before they are thrown overboard. I believe I never mentioned that a constitution was reported, but the truth is that it totally escaped me. A paper of that sort was read at the Convention, but I learnt the next morning that a council had been held on it overnight, by which it was condemned; so I thought no more of it.”
Having his personal liberty interfered with was not at all to Morris’s taste, and when on the 28th of March he was arrested in the street, M. Lebrun was speedily informed that that sort of thing was not to be quietly borne. “Yesterday afternoon,” he wrote to the minister, “I was arrested in the street and conducted to the Section de la Butte des Moulins because I had not a carte de citoyen. Fortunately a person who knew me, having heard what had passed, came to my rescue, and brought me out of the affair on his own responsibility. I have the honor to send you herewith the copy of the pass given me by the Section. I beg, sir, that you will have the goodness to secure me against similar accidents, troublesome in themselves and scandalous from the publicity. I pray you, also, to grant me protection from domiciliary visits. Armed men came into my house yesterday, and although I have every reason to be satisfied with their conduct (for they went away as soon as I convinced them of the impropriety of their proceedings), yet I think that when general orders are given for these visits such houses ought to be excepted as are under the protection of the law of nations. Will you do me the favor also to send me a passport for travelling into the interior? In the month of January it happened to me to be arrested and sent back to Paris under pretence that the passport you gave me was out of date. I am in expectation of going forthwith to pass a few days at my country-house, and it may be that I shall be again stopped. Will you have the goodness, sir, to sign the enclosed certificate for the members of my family?”
M. Lebrun’s reply was as follows: “The affection of the French Republic for the United States is too marked to admit the possibility of an unfavorable interpretation being given to the accident which befell you on the 28th instant. The precautionary measures taken on that day extended to all the inhabitants of the city of Paris, and a proof that they had no reference to you personally is that at the moment your name and rank were known you obtained the justice due to you. The domiciliary visits were an equally general measure, from which no house in Paris was exempt. I see with pleasure that the Commissaries of the Section who entered your house withdrew after the explanation you gave them. The respect which they have shown you is proof of the belief of my fellow-citizens that the minister of a free nation, an ally of France, is incapable of receiving into his house disaffected persons. The exemption which you claim would have had the pernicious effect of affording the ill-disposed a facility for calumniating your motives, in order to disturb the entire harmony which subsists between the two nations.”
Morris does not again speak of being arrested or of any domiciliary visits disturbing his privacy. Shortly after this experience he left Paris for Sainport, a modest pied-à-terre on the Seine, not far from Paris, which he had purchased. Of the growing treachery to the government Morris wrote, April 19th, to Mr. Jefferson:
“There seems to be more of treason in this country than was imagined, and every day increases suspicion, which, whether well or ill founded, has always the effect of distracting the public councils. As far as I can judge of the public mind, it appears that there is a general state of suspense. Success on either side will fix the opinions of a very great number, who will then act to show their sincerity. Here they hang people for giving their opinion in favor of royalty (that is, they cut off their heads), but yet I am told that such opinion is openly avowed and supported in the streets. I am told that there is a majority even of the Convention who think a king necessary; but, as they see the loss of their own lives in connection with the re-establishment of the throne, it is to be supposed that they would not tell such thoughts. Time will show that there are among them some false brethren, and certainly the most intelligent must be convinced that the republican virtues are not yet of Gallic growth.
“The Duke of Orleans is in the way of reaping the fruits of his conduct, being, as you will see, sent a prisoner to Marseilles. The storm thickens all around us, but as yet one cannot certainly determine how it will burst. The attempts made to excite disturbances in Paris have hitherto proved ineffectual, but that stroke seems to be reserved for the moment when the deputies, now in commission in the departments, shall return.”
By the end of May Morris had established himself in quiet and comparative safety, “in a neat little house on the banks of the Seine at Sainport,” he wrote to Robert Morris, “with a pretty little garden and some green trees, and more grass than my neighbors; for you will observe that we are so scorched by a long drought that, in spite of all philosophic notions, we are beginning our processions to obtain the favor of the bon Dieu. Were it proper for un homme public et protestant to interfere, I should be tempted to tell them that mercy is before sacrifice. I remember that about a year (or, indeed, eighteen months) ago I was desired in a large society to draw the horoscope of France, to which I answered that it might be done in three words—guerre, famine, peste. This, which appeared to me at the time more than possible, has long been certain as to a part, and but too probable for what remains.
“I have about twenty acres of land, about twenty miles from the barrier of Paris in summer (by means of a crossroad); I have, on the whole, about twenty-seven miles to Paris, and from hence to Fontainebleau about fifteen. This last will, I imagine, become the seat of government should the royal party prevail. But if Monsieur should be regent he might reside in his palace at Choisi, about six miles from the barrier of Paris, and eighteen from hence. My little territory is enclosed by a stone wall about eight feet high on the north and east sides, from which last come the cold winds of this hemisphere. On the south and west I am secured by a ha-ha. The western side, which is my greatest length, bounds on the river, from which the ha-ha is distant about fifteen yards and the house about forty. The river is about the size of the Schuylkill at the Tweed’s ford, but deeper, being not fordable. Adjoining to the north, and separated only by a street, is the village.
“My prospect is rural and extensive. At a mile and a half on the southwest are the ruins of baths which once belonged to the fair Gabrielle, favorite mistress to Henry the Fourth, and at half that distance in the opposite direction stands on a high plain the magnificent pavilion built by Bouret. He was what is here called un homme de finance. He expended on that building and its gardens about half a million sterling, and after squandering in the whole about two millions sterling he put himself to death because he had nothing to live on. I think you will acknowledge that the objects just mentioned are well calculated to show the vanity of human pursuits and possessions. My time is spent in reading and writing, of which last I have not a little.
“The French privateers employ many of my hours, for the masters and agents of the American vessels they take apply to me for advice and assistance. The other day I was desired, on the part of a merchant in London, to claim of the ministry some rice and indigo, but I knew neither by whom nor when nor where they were taken, nor where they are deposited. Without observing, however, on so lame and so strange a request, I desired the person who made it to appoint an agent in the port, with directions to state a proper claim before the competent judicature. I wonder what this person would have thought had anybody asked a Secretary of State in England to deliver up goods taken by one of his privateers. I have had applications to grant the privileges of the American flag to vessels owned by Frenchmen and others. Some of the applicants were offended at my refusal of that trifling favor. The state of the government here is also a great plague, for it is difficult to discover the best mode of compassing an object when the parties who are to decide are perpetually changing. Our old Congress was nothing to this Convention, and you will form a tolerable idea of the nature and extent of that influence which the city of Paris exercises from some late events.
“It is rather late now to mention Paul Jones. But I should have written to you about his death immediately if I could have gotten a copy of his will to transmit. I was promised from day to day, and at length the matter lay over, and since, his relations have been here and have written to you. I drew the heads of his will, poor fellow, the day he died, and when his extremities were already cold. I called on him in the afternoon, with M. Vicq d’Azyr, first physician to the Queen, and he was then a corpse. It was somewhat singular that he, who detested the French Revolution and all those concerned in it, should have been followed to the grave by a deputation from the National Assembly, and that I should have had in one of your gazettes some svery severe reflection on me for not paying him due respect; I, who during his life had rendered him all possible service and possessed his confidence to the last, so that he wished to name me with you for executor. But such is the world, whose mistakes frequently amuse me, and on more serious occasions. Before I quit Paul Jones I must tell you that some people here who like rare shows wished him to have a pompous funeral, and I was applied to on the subject; but as I had no right to spend on such follies either the money of his heirs or that of the United States, I desired that he might be buried in a private and economical manner. I have since had reason to be glad that I did not agree to waste money of which he had no great abundance, and for which his relatives entertain a tender regard. I promised them to entreat your attention to their requests, which will no doubt be somewhat troublesome, and consume the moments you can badly spare. A preview of this made me desire Jones to think of some other executor, but the poor fellow was so anxious, telling me that as we alone possessed his full confidence he could not think of losing the aid of both, etc., and as what he said, besides his natural stammering, was interrupted by the strugglings against death, I was obliged to quit my opposition. Thus, my dear friend, I have given you a history which ought to have been communicated long ago. You will probably find it somewhat tedious now. . . .
“The communication with England, and, indeed, with all foreign countries, was never in the memory of man so difficult and uncertain as in the present moment. I know nothing of what passes in London, even as to my own affairs. This is extremely disagreeable. I could indeed send a messenger, but to that effect I must ask passports as for one carrying my public despatches, and I do not choose, even in matters of indifference, to make my public character subservient to private purposes.”
[∗]François Joseph Westermann, a native of Alsace, and one of the principal instigators of the Jacobins to revolution in Alsace. He was also one of the leaders of the riots of August 10th, at Paris. He and his friend Danton were executed together in April, 1794.
[∗]Pierre Vicorin Vergniaud, one of the chiefs of the Girondin party, the most eloquent speaker of the party, and one of the greatest orators of the Assembly. Born at Limoges in 1759, he died, at thirty-five years of age, after a brilliant but stormy career, being guillotined October 31, 1793.